Storming Sariska fires a statement of intent
Michael Bell's stable star Sariska made an impressive return to action by making every yard of the running in the totesport.com Middleton Stakes at York.
Winner of last year's Oaks at Epsom, as well as the Irish equivalent, the four-year-old was sent off at 10-11 for this high-class Group Two event and was sent straight to the head of affairs by Jamie Spencer.
Her chief rival Midday, behind Sariska at Epsom and at the Curragh, was one of the first off the bridle as Sariska started to pull clear.
Breeders' Cup winner Midday began to find her stride late on but Sariska was not for catching and passed the post a length and three-quarters to the good.
Spencer said: "I'm really delighted with her. She couldn't have done it much easier, but I'm disappointed the way the ground is.
"There are trials on today and the ground shouldn't be as firm as that for any racehorse in this day and age.
"I just hope she's all right tomorrow. It was a big risk to run here but she's gone and won.
"I didn't have to be hard on her, let's hope it's a good year for her.
"She got a bit tired inside the final furlong but I set a reasonable gallop because she's a class horse with proven stamina.
"She's got that one piece of form in Ireland (Irish Oaks) that shows she's so much more effective when there's cut in the ground.
"She goes on anything, but I'm just pleased to get her back today and hope she'll be around for a while."
Bell said: "It was borderline whether we ran her but she'd actually run some of her best races on similar ground.
"They'd watered and when we walked it we found it was nice, good ground in the straight.
"Midday has run a stormer and today it was in our favour as she had the penalty.
"She won like we hoped she would.
"There were always signs that she would improve from three to four and the evidence is she has."
Bell added: "Jamie felt she'd improved and her regular work rider says she feels so much stronger.
"We've been really happy the way she's being going all spring.
"The Coronation Cup is the target. Last year it was from the Musidora to the Oaks. It's the same timing from the Middleton to Coronation so that's where she'll go.
"We were a bit down after Dar Re Mi beat her here last year in the Yorkshire Oaks, but she is a very good filly and it would be lovely to meet her at Epsom.
"Let's hope we meet. The Bamfords and the Lloyd Webbers are good friends. It would be a great race so let's go for it."
Henry Cecil said of Midday: "The ground was very fast and she didn't like it. She is a heavy shouldered horse and was hanging a bit on the ground.
"She has run a very good race, but really needs a mile and a half unless there is give in the ground.
"She will be better on good ground and over a mile and a half. We will just see where we go as it is a long year, but she has now had her race.
"I didn't really expect her to beat Sariska and she may be a bit more forward than we are."